Monday, 14 August 2017

Book Marks: Romance, Censorship, Etc.

"What does a woman want?" Washington Post books section editor Ron Charles asks. "If you’re in publishing, this is not an idle — or sexist — question. As Ian McEwan said more than 10 years ago, 'When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.'"

Charles furthers his case against that "special degree of fervent condescension" reserved for romance novels in that short piece; the snobs have gotten the genre and its fans wrong.

Some appear to be catching on, judging from the next article:

"The case of a male author using a female pseudonym to write fiction was relatively unheard of when Tania Carver emerged, but the explosion of female-oriented crime fiction in the last five years has led to an increasing number of male authors adopting gender-neutral names to publish their work."

It wasn't too long ago that female novelists wrote under male pseudonyms to make themselves read. Are we seeing the completion of a circle?

Well, if anyone is interested in spinning the next big hit in romance, here's how pros churn out the necessary daily word count.



When Sonny Liew's graphic novel won several Eisner awards, Singapore's "National Arts Council (NAC) put out a carefully-worded congratulatory statement two days later, without specifically referring to Liew’s artistic work," Kirsten Han noted in Asia Times.

"The hesitation was perhaps understandable. The council had earlier withdrawn a S$8,000 (US$5,900) publishing grant for The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye just ahead of its launch in 2015, reasoning that its content 'potentially undermines the authority or legitimacy' of the government.

"The revocation, which ironically helped to catapult the graphic novel into the public eye, now looks even more short-sighted with the novel’s international acclaim."



"...Because books are only as influential as long as people who read them don't ask questions, or can't tell the difference between fiction and reality. Thus, why should the government fear access to books and any media items that it deems unworthy?" Hafidz Baharom asks in The Sun.

"If people are easily confused, is it not the role of the public, the government and academicians to publish their books to counter it, rather than stop people from reading a separate point of view? In other words, shouldn't more books be the answer to create a learned society, rather than a ban?"


Plus:

  • "The greatest obstacle to making work that last does not lie outside us. It does not depend on getting the right lucky breaks, cultivating the right relationships, or sidestepping the right pitfalls. All of that matters, but the greatest obstacle lies within. Namely, our excuses, our egos, and our timelines."
  • So Facebook's chatbots apparently invented a non-human language and talked to each other in it. But it's not the first time that trouble reared its head when it comes to cryptic languages.
  • The history of colouring books could go as far back as HOW MANY YEARS? "An early variation on coloring books could be the illustrations for two volumes of the very long descriptive poem Poly-Olbion by Michael Drayton, published in 1612 and 1622..."
  • A handy listicle (in case you don't have one) of independent publishers and bookstores in Malaysia. It was too short, so they came up with a second one.
  • A Twitter drama erupted over a potentially problematic YA novel and I'm here, too blasé to roll my eyes. Maybe, judge it after you read it?
  • "And while today they might just be a function of lazy p.r., there was a time, not too long ago, when who's who lists were a more curated experience. In the United Kingdom, that amounted to a 250-page reference book that debuted in 1849 and is still published today, aspiring to be a compendium 'of living noteworthy and influential individuals, from all walks of life, worldwide.'"
  • I had it all mapped out: After years of sacrifice and honing my craft, I would make my triumphant debut, with a book that might not become a bestseller but that'd be respected for its stunning originality and insight into the human condition. Instead, my first book was The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook. Yes, that Captain Jack Sparrow.
  • A dispatch from "The Incredible Shrinking BookExpo" of 2017 from an indie publisher. "Obviously it wasn't the intention of the organizers of BookExpo to shrink the show, nor can we blame the Big Five, but the whole thing was noticeably small. This is hearsay and I couldn't confirm it, but an industry insider told me that eight years ago BEA's floor space was 600,000 square feet (including booths, rights, stages, programming, etc.) and that this year it was 98,000. One-sixth. I certainly felt it. What's different?"
  • "Iran's intelligence agency, Ettela'at, has banned [the] publication of a Kurdish language instruction book. The book's authors, in Razawe Khorasan province, announced that they, the publisher, sellers, and readers have faced threats from the province's security forces. ...Provincial officials said the Latin alphabet had been used by 'terrorist groups' and it was not in the benefit of the Islamic Republic of Iran to allow the publication of books written in the Latin alphabet."
  • "When Keith Houghton bought his four-bedroom detached house earlier this year, he did a rare thing for an author: he paid cash, with earnings from his books. Keith who, you may ask? Houghton is one of a handful of so-called 'hidden' bestsellers: his self-published crime thrillers are ebooks, sales of which are not monitored by the UK's official book charts (if they don't have ISBNs, which self-published titles often don't)."

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Book Marks: Singapore, Putrajaya, And Kakutani Bows Out

"In a written response to a question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Dennis Tan on why the NAC withdrew its funding for Jeremy Tiang’s book, [Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu] said: 'The project did not meet the funding requirements mutually agreed upon as the content in the book deviated from the original proposal.'" I swear, somebody in Singapore's National Arts Council is helping these books. And why is it ANOTHER book by Epigram? Are they the only game in town these days?

Meanwhile, Singapore's "noted literary figure" Gwee Li Sui talks about "the culture of reading, censorship, arts funding and public discourse on controversial issues". Expect a mention of Sonny Liew's multiple Eisner Award-winning The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

Oh, and is another star rising? Singaporean Rachel Heng's debut novel, a "literary science-fiction work tentatively titled Suicide Club", was "acquired in auction by Sceptre, the literary imprint of British publishing house Hodder & Stoughton, and by publisher Henry Holt & Co in the US," according to the Straits Times.



At home, the Home Ministry has banned Breaking the Silence: Voices of a Moderation Islam in a Constitutional Democracy, a book by pro-moderation group G25, "purportedly for being prejudicial to public order." Other books in the ministry's recent banning spree includes From Majapahit to Putrajaya: Searching for Another Malaysia by academic Farish A. Noor and something called Saucy Seaside Postcards.



Oh wow, THIS is news:

"[Michiko] Kakutani's departure [from The New York Times] will instantly change the shape of the publishing world. She wielded the paper's power with remarkable confidence and abandon. During the course of her nearly 40 years at the Times (she joined as a reporter in 1979, before switching to criticism in 1983), Kakutani, 62, helped make the careers of many literary namebrands, from George Saunders, Mary Karr, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathan Franzen, to Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, and others."

Meanwhile, Megan Garber in The Atlantic reflects on the career of the "one-woman kamikaze".

I don't agree with all her views but she writes good. Book criticism will be duller without her.



"Zadie Smith has this to say about being a writer: 'Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.'

"That is true. But you learn the points of satisfaction over time – the beats where you're likely to find the joy. The act of writing itself, of forgetting your own name, forgetting to dress, or that your character of Kevin is not a real person, and you cry when you have to hurt him in your book – all that is wonderful."

Brigid Delaney, on the best lesson she learnt about writing from a bitter and angry unnamed author. I wonder who he was?


Also:

  • Author and educator Nicola Morgan argues for fairer prices for books - and against high discounts that eat into royalties. "Some purchasers will still choose to buy at super-high discount, of course. That's their right. But many, I argue, will choose to pay a fairer price when they realise the consequences. I don't mean to send anyone on a guilt-trip – it's entirely every buyer's choice. But I'd like it to be an informed choice and many readers just don't realise the next point."
  • Excluding books from goods and services tax doesn't mean the cost of publishing or buying books won't go up. In India, "the cost of book-making will go up by 10%-28% (excluding the overheads) and this will have to be paid directly by the publisher unless it is passed on to the reader, because there is no provision to claim Input Tax Credits (ITC) – taxes paid by suppliers – like in the erstwhile Value Added Tax (VAT)." But it seems sales in India are being hit by rises in parts of the publishing chain.
  • "Inuit peoples do not read and write and ingest culture the way non-Inuit Canadians do. I believe Inuit Canadians do not place a high value on the written word. Instead, we come from a culture with roots that lie within the passing on of stories orally; this is what lies within our blood and genetic memories. When I operate outside of my own circle of family and friends, I operate in a different fashion. It is not compromise. It is survival." Norma Dunning, author of Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, talks about writing from an Inuit perspective.
  • "Due to the political circumstances, [author Alana] Massey said, 'I was sort of jokingly told that any books that weren't political, dystopian, or both, weren't really selling.' Trump's Presidential win has sent a rippling effect through the book publishing world, affecting authors, booksellers, editors, agents, and publicists: In a world where reality has become stranger than fiction, actual books are no longer selling." Really, now?
  • "...never get involved with a publisher who needs your money. You want to hire an editor, a designer, or a marketing agency? It's a great idea — but you are the publisher in that situation. Revenue from sales comes to you. If someone is selling your book and paying you royalties, you do not give them your credit card number. Ever." One can't caution against money-grubbing vanity publishers too much.
  • "Trump's foul-mouthed [former] communications director [Anthony "The Mooch" Scarramucci] wrote three books full of advice that he apparently can't take himself. Maybe because it's all junk." One piece of advice goes, "Keep your negative emotions to yourself." And this guy got hired?